Paul She CPA (practising), Practising Director, Mazars Hong Kong, and Chairman of the Institute’s Qualification and Examinations Board
In the past, people asked “will artificial intelligence (AI) take over CPAs’ jobs?” Now, people are asking “when will AI take over CPAs’ jobs?” and “what is next for CPAs whose jobs have been taken up by AI?”
As CPAs, it’s a common understanding that “automation risk” is close at hand. Technological developments not only make our lives more convenient and comfortable, but also create great challenges to our job security, wages and promotion opportunities.
We can’t stop the technology development, so instead of avoiding the challenge, we can beat it!
Automation is a good solution for matters that are routine, mechanical, standardized and required a high level of consistency and accuracy. Therefore, basic accounting work, or even certain predetermined complex accounting treatments can be fulfilled by automation with AI. This trend releases us from boring, routine and mechanical bookkeeping work.
Undoubtedly, AI will continue to get better over time. Programmes are constantly evolving to become more intelligent, perform more intricate functions and do it all more efficiently. These improvements not only make tasks easier for CPAs, but also push the industry to adapt and grow as well. CPAs can continue to add value services to their repertoire by maximizing the potential of AI and fulfilling market needs. Better automation also means better data for CPAs to work with and analyse, and the client gets to reap the rewards.
Therefore, the market is expecting us to play a more important role in formulating business strategies, appraising potential solutions and making critical decisions that are usually uncommon, unique and situation-specific in the context of the ever-changing business environment.
The Hong Kong Institute of CPAs is well aware of these challenges and has rolled out the brand new version of Qualification Programme (QP), in particular, the Capstone level, to equip our future CPAs with the required professional knowledge, enabling competences and real-world experience.
Unlike traditional examinations – that are mainly focused on testing the technical knowledge and skills and are just basic requirements – the Capstone level provides opportunities for and inspires our next generation to develop their ability to deal competently with situations CPAs regularly face. It does so through its three full-day, face-to-face workshops on a team basis as facilitated by CPAs with rich experience and backed with well-defined case studies, individual and team exercises, and other online materials – all while involving the integration and application of technical knowledge and skills gained from any part of the QP syllabus, across all fields of technical and enabling competences.
The takeaways of the Capstone level are not just skills and techniques, but also tools for pursuing continuous personal development, effective communication among people and, to some extent, business acumen, leadership and vision for CPAs’ future development.
“The Capstone level provides opportunities for and inspires our next generation to develop their ability to deal competently with situations CPAs regularly face.”
Kit Wong CPA, Director of Education and Training at the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs
CPAs are moving into a wider range of businesses beyond the traditional roles of the accounting function. Our role is transforming from dealing with numbers to analysing and advising on business issues, especially as the impact of COVID-19 speeds up technological advancements in the business environment and society expects more from CPAs.
As such, a new mix of technical knowledge and core enabling competences including business acumen, critical analysis, problem-solving, communication skills and leadership, on top of upholding our ethical values and integrity, are required for CPAs to stay relevant in the business world.
The new QP adds emphasis to those core enabling competences to develop QP students’ ability to apply their professional knowledge in professional contexts and meet the needs in today’s complex business environment.
The Capstone, which is the final level of the new QP, is integrated and comprised of three full-day workshops and the Final Examination. It focuses on the development of the ability to deal competently with different situations by simulating the business world.
The business-oriented Capstone level provides QP students with a progressive journey to enhance their core enabling competences for their future development. The three-day workshops stimulate practical workplace discussions and are designed to be dynamic and interactive, and inspire learning through various activities, e.g. pre-work, group discussions, presentation, simulations, case studies and assessments tasks. Both the workshops and the Final Examination develop QP students’ lateral thinking in making a pragmatic decision in today’s ever-changing business environment.
We believe that QP students passing the new QP including the Capstone level would be able to demonstrate to employers the necessary knowledge and skills as business partners in their organizations and with their clients.
“The three-day workshops stimulate practical workplace discussions and are designed to be dynamic and interactive, and inspire learning through various activities, e.g. pre-work, group discussions, presentation, simulations, case studies and assessments tasks.”
Icy Lai CPA, Internal Audit Director, PwC, and Facilitator of the Capstone and Module 13 Business Assurance of the Qualification Programme
The Capstone workshops provide QP students with valuable learning experience and exposure to situations that professional accountants may face every day, such as resolving business issues and ethical dilemmas. In the workshops, students need to work on a mega business case and perform various analyses and evaluations. Additional information is available in each workshop to build on the existing case information so the case and issues become more challenging and complex – just like in real-world situations. Students have the chance to practice progressively and then do a deep dive in evaluating very complex business matters. Professional accountants are expected to have strong global and business acumen to understand and evaluate financial and non-financial information, under both micro- and macro-perspectives, and communicate insights and the best advice to clients and employers. Now our students can be exposed to these experiences in the Capstone workshops.
The practice sessions throughout the three-day Capstone workshops are very realistic. Students need to apply their technical knowledge as well as their core enabling skills (e.g. addressing ethical dilemmas, problem-solving, critical analysis, project management etc.) in resolving issues and make recommendations. For example, students will need to identify the ethical dilemmas from the case. They need to recognize the nature and impact of the problems, explore alternatives, and provide suggestions. Ethical dilemmas can frequently occur in our workplace, so it is beneficial for students to simulate in these situations and tackle the challenges.
Students enrolled in the Capstone are well-prepared with good technical knowledge. They are at the peak of the QP and are ready for careers as CPAs. Capstone students demonstrate a strong ability to integrate technical knowledge in order to resolve complex issues and show significant improvement in mastering the enabling skills, such as critical analysis and effective communication.
In the Capstone workshops, students utilize multiple enabling competence guidelines we introduced in driving their thinking process and structuring their presentations. It is impressive to see them applying what they have learned through the QP. Students show their capability to process large amount of data and identify the most relevant and important information in supporting their recommendations systematically. They reflect on their justifications and also evaluate arguments of other groups after presentations. Students commented that they enjoyed the opportunity to reflect and share ideas with their peers. The ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking is an important quality for our future CPAs.
“Students have the chance to practice progressively and then do a deep dive in evaluating very complex business matters.”
The Institute is seeking workshop facilitators for the Qualification Programme. Join by 19 November and help nurture future CPAs. Click here for details.